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Andrew is a staff writer at the “The Hudsucker”. He is a 30 year old lawyer living in Ottawa. Besides legal jargon, his brain capacity is taken up by reality show trivia, video game walk-throughs and room escape strategies. Andrew is also happily in a long-term, long-distance relationship. Follow him on Twitter as @sublymonal.

Album Review: ‘Paranoia’ Signifies a New Era for ‘Idol’ Winner Lee DeWyze

As American Idol gears up to premiere its 16th season on ABC beginning March 11, it’s hard to believe that Season 9, the season where the grouchy but honest Simon Cowell left the juggernaut show, was almost eight years ago. That season was the same season where Lee DeWyze, the underdog painter from Mount Prospect, Illinois, triumphed over dread-locked folk singer, Crystal Bowersox.

Since then, DeWyze has been touring and making music non-stop, with seven albums to his name now including his most recent, Paranoia, released Feb. 16. For fans, the album feels like one that DeWyze has been building to for his entire career, making his transition from Idol winner, to singer-songwriter, to something entirely different on this new record: a storyteller.

The cover of DeWyze’s new album “Paranoia” out Feb. 16, 2018 [Credit: DeWyze/Shanchie Records]

Perhaps the best way to describe this transition period in DeWyze’s musicality is through his own words: In a recent “Ask Me Anything” session on the website Reddit, DeWyze described the new record, Paranoia, as the soundtrack to his imagination and mind and said he “really explored different things musically,” whether it be the way he sang something, or how he recorded it. Over the past few years, DeWyze’s music has been proliferating popular television, lending his “Blackbird Song” to the apocalyptic atmosphere of AMC’s The Walking Dead and, later, on USA’s Suits.

The lead single off of Paranoia, entitled “The Breakdown,” also made a splash on the most recent season of Showtime’s hit show Shameless. For those unfamiliar with DeWyze’s sound, the single is a good indicator of what’s to come on the rest of the album, blending vulnerability in DeWyze’s lyrics with an ethereal quality that makes the song the perfect emotional cue.

Whether deliberate or not, the use of his music on the small screen has given DeWyze’s new sound a cinematic quality to it, which is why it makes sense for him to release an album that is the “soundtrack to his mind” at this point in his career. The title single, “Paranoia” opens the record on a darker note, conjuring images of billowing smoke and guiding the listener on with a haunting chorus of repeating piano chords. As the record continues, fans will hear songs that DeWyze has played live take on new life with the production that being in the studio allows.

That’s not to say the live versions are any better or worse: “Empty House,” the eighth track on the album, is a song DeWyze has been playing live for a while and each iteration feels like a reinvention of the song’s meaning. Those who have seen DeWyze live will know that studio versions are like the same priceless antiques but with a fresh coat of paint. In smaller venues, when it’s just DeWyze and his guitar, or a minimalist band backing him, attendees get to hear all the rasp and tenor of his voice at its peak, like some wild animal being let out of a cage that’s too small for it. On the studio versions, one can better appreciate the dynamics and intricacies of his voice, like the falsetto that DeWyze flexes throughout the new album.

DeWyze is currently touring the east coast with more dates to come [Credit: DeWyze/Shanchie Records]

DeWyze also infuses his music with more pop-friendly melodies this time around. The chorus of “Lonely Hearts” takes on a Beatles-like quality, in its subtlety and old-school sound, while the highs and lows of “Got It Right” make it one of the most radio-ready songs across DeWyze’s entire discography. For fans, it may feel like it’s been a balancing act for DeWyze ever since his stint on Idol. Watching him go from one end of the pop spectrum with his debut album “Live It Up,” to the other, with albums like his fifth “Frames” and sixth “Oil & Water” respectively, where comparisons to Mumford & Sons were common.

However, DeWyze has always been clear that he makes the music he wants to make and fans have found value in each phase of career. In fact, DeWyze still gets requests to play songs he wrote as a teenager, even before his Idol win, which is perhaps what makes Paranoia such a triumph of an album for him. That even after over a decade in the music business and over half a dozen albums to his name, DeWyze is still finding ways to reinvent himself and make music that speaks to new audiences, whether through television or the magic he creates during his live shows.

DeWyze is on tour on the east coast from now until the end of February with more dates to come. His new album, Paranoia, is available on iTunes and Apple Music, as well as Spotify, Amazon Music, and Google Play.

Follow DeWyze on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, as well as his website. If you’ve already heard the record, let us know what song is your favorite in the comments below!

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  1. Monthly ‘Idol’ Roundup: February 2018 | The Hudsucker - February 26, 2018

    […] Boots. We also shone a light on Season 9 winner Lee DeWyze‘s ethereal new album “Paranoia” and his tour supporting that album. Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips is also currently on […]

  2. Monthly ‘Idol’ Roundup: March 2018 | The Hudsucker - March 29, 2018

    […] of the lead single off his new album Paranoia entitled “The Breakdown”, which was reviewed last month. The simplicity of DeWyze and his band induces goosebumps while […]

  3. Co-Founder’s Letter: Views From the Six | The Hudsucker - June 15, 2018

    […] opened the path for me to express my love of music by writing reviews for Idol winners albums like Lee DeWyze and Trent Harmon only to have them tell me they read and loved my reviews when I met them in […]

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